ONLY HUMAN: Danger in being too slow to act
I often wonder why Government continues to shoot itself in the foot on issues that seem to be in its power to resolve swiftly; or, why it does not at least appear to be actively engaged in trying to resolve such matters.
Clearly, any reasonable person would realize that Government cannot solve all the challenges it faces with the wave of a wand – even though in their politicking opposition politicians in particular often convey that impression.
The statement by the late David Thompson when Opposition Leader, on our protracted fishing agreement with Trinidad and Tobago is a case in point. He said the matter could have been solved with the two Prime Ministers sitting down to talk over a bowl of soup in St John.
The fact that this matter is still outstanding shows it is not that simple.
It also shows how some matters are so complex that despite a Government’s best efforts, they drag on.
Another complex matter which daily mocks all those who claimed they could so easily resolve it is the disturbing high cost of living.
You would recall this Government vociferously pledged that this would be their number one, number two and number three priority. That the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration has failed to wrestle this beast to the ground is not entirely its fault.
Global commodity prices have been continually rising, and this has led to increases in the cost of manufactured goods. So countries like Barbados that are net importers have had to absorb these higher prices.
These two examples clearly illustrate that governments despite their promises and best intentions, run into issues that prove more troublesome than they think. That’s why it is very critical they do resolve the ones they can and be certainly seen to be working towards a satisfactory solution.
Two issues that Government continues to drag its feet on to its detriment are the payment of Al Barrack and The Alexandra School.
On the first, we went from a Cabinet minister terming this matter “frivolous and vexatious” to statements from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and two other ministers promising that it would soon be settled.
Yet last Saturday, Barrack and his attorney Douglas Trotman said they were going back to court to recover the $72 million now owed him in principal and interest after being awarded $34.5 million in arbitration back in 2006.
The two contend that Government’s promises to settle were empty as no substantive moves had been made to finalize the matter.
It is shameful that Barrack should have to go back to court because, as I said in a previous column, his matter is not a political one. The matter brings into question the Government’s respect for the rule of law.
And that can undermine public confidence in our administrative systems. This not only relates to our society, but can have a tremendous negative impact on our economy as well in that investors do business on the basis of confidence in agreements made, with the understanding that should there be a dispute it can be resolved efficiently.
If there are doubts this can be achieved, then these individuals would be wary of that particular jurisdiction.
As for The Alexandra School controversy, Government has now backed itself into a corner by its inaction.
The report from the commission of inquiry into the school has recommended the removal of principal Jeff Broomes, which would achieve the same results as the separation demanded by the teachers when they went on strike for 23 days to force the issue.
Having got the teachers to return to the classroom and work under Broomes for two and a half terms pending the outcome of the inquiry, for Government not to take action immediately on the matter – or at least indicate when action will be effected in the matter –
It leaves room for more action to be taken by the aggrieved teachers, who were vindicated by the commissioner’s report and now seem in limbo.
• Sanka Price is SATURDAY SUN editor.